NASA can not afford to build a space telescope that is considered to be the fastest way to identify asteroids that could hit Earth with terrible consequences.
According to a law from 2015, the space agency had five years' time, 90% of the Earth's objects over 140 meters in diameter, which could destroy cities, regions, and even civilization itself if impacted on the planet. NASA will not meet this deadline, and scientists believe that they have so far identified only about a third of the asteroids as a threat.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers, led by lead investigator Amy Mainzer, proposed a space telescope called NEOCam that uses infrared sensors to find and measure near-Earth objects. The National Academy of Sciences released a report this spring stating that NEOCam is the fastest way to fulfill the asteroid hunting mandate. However, NASA will not approve the project to begin development.
The agency claimed to prioritize financing for ground-based telescopes looking for asteroids, although the NAS report concluded that they would not fulfill their mission. The agency also funds the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which will test the technologies required to address near-Earth property threats. Nevertheless, the agency said that the NEOCam proposed infrared telescope "could be ready for any future efforts to develop missions."
Scientists say NEOCam is trapped in a game of the "Cosmic Chicken" between Congress and NASA. NASA managers are reluctant to prioritize planetary defense over scientific missions, while Congress does not yet provide specific funding for an asteroid survey. The NAS report recommended that "missions that meet the primary goals of planetary defense should not be required to compete with missions that meet the primary scientific objectives."
It was noted that this was an epic one Failure in the history of science would be, "said the MIT planetary scientist Richard Binzel to Quartz. "We now have the opportunity to know what's out there, which means we have no excuse for a continued lack of knowledge."
Binzel says it is now up to Congress to increase NASA's planetary defense funding by $ 40 million annually This would allow the agency to develop the spacecraft and eventually launch it in the coming years ,
However, NASA did not call for this plus in this year's White House budget proposal to Congress. Instead, the agency has requested $ 1.6 billion in new funding to help people return to the moon, which could cost as much as $ 30 billion over the next five years. In contrast, the total cost of the NEOCam mission is estimated at $ 500 million to $ 600 million. Funding by NASA is a relatively low priority in Washington, as Congress has not even agreed on a comprehensive overview of funding for 2020. A May survey among Americans found that 68% of respondents supported the search for asteroids that could affect Earth, while only 23% thought that returning to the Moon was a good idea.